Many of us spent a lot a time this past month in front of the television screen watching the Olympic Winter Games from Korea. Time and again we heard “preparation and practice are the keys to making a winning champion.” And Canada is justifiably proud of the accomplishments of those athletes who represented us in Peongchang.
In a same way, but on a much small scale, many of the Women’s Institute members throughout British Columbia spend a good part of each winter planning and preparing for their participation in the numerous Fall Fairs and Exhibitions held in this province in August and September.
Whether they compete in field crops, vegetables, fruits, foods or a myriad of handcrafts, it takes preparation and practice to produce a winning entry. In the 1950’s, when there was a Women’s Institute display and an area where demonstrations of traditional crafts were held each afternoon, many members traveled to Vancouver at the time of the Pacific National Exhibition to participate in this venture. The guest book for the booth showed visitors from all areas of BC, many from other parts of Canada, plus a notable number from other countries. There are many members with ribbons or other mementos of successful entries in hundreds of competitions.
So what does this do for the competitor? First they develop a skill that others enjoy, and therefore have a chance to measure their capabilities against someone who shares their interest. Some go on to creating unique and very personal gifts for others, while some are content just to enjoy making something they appreciate. There is also the satisfaction of having your efforts recognized.
For a time my husband and I hosted international students from Asia who came to Canada to experience the lifestyle here, and to hone their ability in English. The ones who stayed with us were girls, usually between 16 and 17 years of age, with a wide variety of interests. Some were more easily entertained than others, but all were interested in learning something about Canadian hobbies. One girl, who loved to decorate things, showed an interest in cake decorating. So when the exhibition season rolled around, and she was anxious to try something a little more challenging, I showed her the entries she could make in the exhibition. There were two events coming up, and the entry in the first one did not work out too well. So, we tried a new approach to the second one. I baked a cake, half in a round 9 inch pan, and the rest in medium sized muffin tins. With her input and a few comments from me, she prepared a monkey face, using the muffin tin size for eyes and ears. She iced features into the face, added “hair” of yarn and a pair of bright red lips. We entered it, then waited for the judges decision. When we checked on the results, there was a supervisor around watching. When the girl and I looked at it, and found a bright red first place ribbon, she came over to congratulate the girl and laughed as she told us – when the judges saw this entry, they “laughed out loud, and unanimously declared – ‘this is first prize’”. Later we took it home, to be admired and laughed over, and where it remained until it became uneatable and had to be disposed of.
It’s all part of a day’s work when it comes to entering competitions, and helping some one young or not so young learn a new skill. How about you? – are you up to learning something new, and entering your efforts to measure them against others work? It can be great fun, and can produce its own rewards!
Ruth Fenner, BCWI Historian
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